What is the Waiting Time for Social Security Disability Hearings?
It is common knowledge that it can take some time to obtain Social Security benefits. But a recent article points out just how long the wait time can be, highlighting the difficulties that those who need benefits face.
The Process of Making a Claim
It’s important to understand the basic phases of a disability claim. The first is what many call the paperwork phase. This is when Social Security and its medical examiners will review your application, medical records, and other documentation, and determine whether you qualify for disability or not. If you are denied, you can ask for a reconsideration.
Delays can happen for incomplete paperwork, missing records, or failure to file all the required forms.
If your request for reconsideration is denied, you then can request a hearing before a judge. Although the paperwork phase can take a long time, it is waiting for a hearing date that is most frustrating.
Backlogged Hearing System Causes Delays
One article found that there were over 1 million people waiting for hearings nationally as of October 2017. The national average waiting time for a hearing is 601 days. About 2/3 of applicants will be denied benefits at the paperwork stage, meaning waiting for a hearing before a judge is the only option.
According to the Administration’s own statistics, the Houston area has the shortest waiting time, at 9 months, with areas such as San Juan, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and South Florida having backlogs of two years.
The waiting time for benefits can be so long that, according to the Social Security Administration, over 7,000 people died waiting for their hearings.
The delay is the result of an increase in applicants and an increase in denials by the SSA backlogging the hearing system. And when benefits are finally awarded, the money is barely enough to survive.
Speeding Up the Process
There are some things you can do to expedite the process. The most obvious is contacting an experienced Social Security attorney who will navigate the system, and gather and present evidence in court. Another way of expediting the process is getting your case listed as a “critical case.”
There is a “compassionate allowances list” (CAL) of diseases and conditions that typically garner expedited attention such as early onset Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, and Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
Similar to the CAL is the “presumptive disability” list, which includes spinal cord injuries, ALS, Down Syndrome and others. You can receive payments while your case is being processed without having to pay money back if your case is denied later on.
There is also a “dire need case” (DRND) exception, which includes imminent homelessness, inability to obtain food, or a lack of medicine or medical care and the inability to obtain it. An experienced attorney may better be able to explain your “dire need” in a letter with your application.
Lastly, your case can be expedited if you are “terminally ill” (TERI), you have a 100% VA disability rating (VPAT), you are a “military casualty/wounded warrior” (MC/WW), or are suicidal, homicidal, or potentially violent.
You will be assured of weaving your way through a complex system with the help of an experienced Social Security attorney. Call the Celeste Law Firm in West Palm Beach today for a free consultation to discuss your Social Security case.